"Pardon our Progress" declares a banner at Long Reach Village Center in Columbia, politely reminding visitors that renovation work begun in early fall is still under way.
But there's an end in sight -- July, officials say -- and a sense of optimism about the project.
"This will breathe new life into our community," said Cecilia Januszkiewicz, who represents Long Reach on the Columbia Council.
The Safeway will double in size, and the refurbished center will include a 5,700-square-foot Blockbuster video store and a hair and nail salon.
A few stores that have been displaced by construction, United Optical and Gourmet Garden, will reopen.
The Columbia Association, the homeowners group governed by
the Columbia Council, plans to spend $330,000 to make the Stone House and Columbia Art Center more visible in the village center. The Stone House entrance ways will be made more prominent and the art center will have a new circular glass window, where artwork will be displayed.
The 24-year-old center needed updating. An enclosed courtyard design was at odds with consumers' preference for strip-style retail centers. Roughly half the stores in the center's core were vacant when renovations began. The Safeway was small compared with other stores.
Some stores that stayed open have struggled. Taco Bell closed Dec. 31.
"We closed the restaurant due to the lack of store traffic," said Mary Jean Duran, a representative of Taco Bell. "The property will go on sale in the next few days."
There is another Taco Bell two miles away on Minstrel Way, she said.
Parts of the center appear impassable because of construction. Pathways are blocked by a cement truck and scaffolding. But the public has been understanding, say Januszkiewicz and Wayne Christmann, a Rouse Co. official.
"People will put up with the disruption if there is something at the end of the rainbow," said Christmann.
Although the center design will not be as open as some of Rouse's other village centers, Januszkiewicz believes it will attract more families from the community and will be successful in reversing the economic problems that many of the village centers in Columbia have faced in recent years.
"The renovations will be marvelous and are long overdue," she said.
Pub Date: 1/08/98